In all the talk about work-life balance, exciting work opportunities, career support and all the other ways top firms are making themselves attractive places to work, it’s important not to forget that money remains a key motivator.

To start, it’s a given that firms need to pay competitive salaries (Irvine, Calif.-based Best Firm Haskell & White makes a point of its “above-average pay”) -- and salaries in the field are rising for staff at all levels.

Beyond that, though, the firms on Accounting Today’s Best Firms to Work For list have explored a variety of other ways to reward staff.

For instance, West Chester, Pa.’s Fischer Cunnane & Associates “pays a profit-sharing bonus to the 401(k) plan for employees which, over the years, has averaged 5 percent of their compensation,” the firm reported. “The bonus applies to full-time and part-time employees who satisfy the ‘hours worked’ requirement for the year.”

Haskell & White offers both profit sharing and individual bonuses: “Profit sharing is based on a pro rata achievement of financial results,” the firm said. “Individual performance bonuses are based on client service, marketing, engagement, financial metrics and mentoring personnel.”

Many firms build bonuses around multiple factors like those Haskell & White mentioned, but many others tie them to single measurements. Besides sharing profits when their firm meets its financial goals, employees at Atlanta’s Smith & Howard can earn an additional 5 percent of their salary if they meet their chargeable-hour goal for the year.

Starting salaries in accounting for 2018

The Best Firms also don’t rely just on period-end rewards. At Las Vegas’ Houldsworth, Russo & Co., “All employees can be awarded on-the-spot bonuses throughout the year,” over and above the year-end bonuses it gives based on individual performance and contributions.

And at Missouri’s Wilson Toellner, “All team members participate in frequent incentive programs, where prizes and financial rewards are available for reaching milestones on LinkedIn in the areas of networking connections and information sharing.”

Two areas stand out as particularly common focuses of bonus pools at top workplaces in the profession. The first is client referrals, where the Best Firms often have programs like that at Kentucky’s Rudler: “Our client referral program rewards professionals and support personnel for bringing in new business with 10 percent of the first-year client collections and 5 percent of the second year paid as commission. Bonuses are estimated to be over $23,000 for 2017.”

And in this era of staff shortages, it should come as no surprise that the other area where the Best Firms are likely to offer generous bonuses is leads, referrals or recommendations that lead to new hires.

For more ways to create a top workplace, see 20 Days: Building a Better Firm.

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Daniel Hood

Daniel Hood

Daniel Hood is editor-in-chief of Accounting Today and Tax Pro Today, and has covered the tax and accounting field for over 20 years.